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2,000 volunteers begin rehearsing as Springsteen's Super Bowl halftime audience

TAMPA — Sporting a little pink visor that read Sun City Center and her New Balance shoes, Sharlene Peter was ready to run Sunday.

Super Bowl? She's not a fanatic.

Springsteen? She could take him or leave him.

But Peter, 66, knows a unique opportunity when she sees one: the chance to dance on the Raymond James Stadium field during Bruce Springsteen's Super Bowl halftime show.

"Just to be part of the extravaganza," said Peter, who recruited the Vintage Babes, her retirement community's softball team, to share the experience with her. "It's going to be fun."

More than 2,000 volunteers hit Jefferson High School's football field Sunday to start what will, in the end, be nearly 20 hours of practice for 12 minutes of stardom.

Their ringleader was Kirsten Patterson Terry, who works for a company called Halftime Entertainment Logistics. Her cheery voice rang out over a public address system.

"You will learn to run in a pack with 600 or 700 of your closest friends," she told the crowd.

On game day, they'll have six minutes to get to the sidelines at the end of the second quarter.

Springsteen will shout the cue to run onto the field: "Is there anyone alive out there?"

The next 12 minutes will be the fastest of their lives, Terry promised.

And then they'll have four minutes to run off the field.

"There's this little thing called the third quarter that the NFL likes to do in a timely manner," Terry said.

Buses will then take the volunteers to the University of Tampa, where they can watch the rest of the game on big-screen TV.

"It is a little mind-boggling," said Peter, a university athletic director before she retired in 2000. But what's even more stunning, she said, is that so many people are willing to do it.

"It's just a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Adriel Torres, 34, a South Tampa real estate agent. "How many people get to say they've been on the field for the Super Bowl halftime show?"

For Nancy Watkins, 53, a Riverview resident who has been to more than 70 Springsteen shows around the world, the highlight of the rehearsal schedule is Thursday, a 10-hour regimen that includes three run throughs at Raymond James Stadium with the Boss himself.

"Not bad," she said, grinning, as she waited hours to learn her field position.

Susan Donatelli, a Bruce fan who lives in Pittsburgh, found out her online application to be an onfield fan was accepted before she knew the Steelers would be playing in the game.

"We came for Bruce, and the Steelers ended up being a bonus," she enthused.

Show organizers believe Lucas Tieleman, a 23-year-old who arrived in Tampa from the Netherlands on Saturday, traveled the farthest for the occasion.

"I'm a huge Springsteen fan," said Tieleman, his cheeks pink from the hot Florida sun after hours in the stands.

Louis Fernandez, 27, is making his second appearance in a halftime show.

He was part of the 1991 halftime show in Tampa, when the theme was Disney's "It's a Small World" and featured New Kids on the Block

Fernandez, 9 at the time, wore a sombrero and was part of a group led by Daffy Duck.

"I tell my friends I was in the halftime show with New Kids on the Block, and they give me a little bit of a hard time," he said. "I don't think I'll ever be embarrassed about Bruce Springsteen."

By the time Peter headed home Sunday, the sun had set and she figured she had run on and off the field at least six times.

"It was a good workout," she said.

And the Vintage Babes are ready for the big game.

"My group is fired up," she said.

2,000 volunteers begin rehearsing as Springsteen's Super Bowl halftime audience 01/25/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 11:29am]
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